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Forget 'lewd behaviour' – is being naked around your own kids good for them?

Thu, 01/23/2020 - 10:05

Seeing a parent naked can help children learn what real bodies look like and better understand consent and boundaries

This week you may have heard about the Utah lewdness law, which a judge refused to overturn in a judgment against a woman who removed her top in her own home while applying drywall, and was seen by her stepchildren doing it.

This raises the question: is it really that bad for a child to see a woman’s naked breasts?

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Once in a full moon: night swimming in McIver’s ladies baths

Thu, 01/23/2020 - 06:30

From a sanctuary for nuns to a training ground for Olympians, Coogee’s women’s-only ocean pool is the stuff of legend. But what really happens there after dark?

A year ago, late on a summer evening in Sydney, I found myself peering – discreetly, I hoped – through a gap in the bushes at a small nature reserve in the city’s eastern suburbs, not far from Bondi Beach. My heart was racing because I thought I had just seen a leg, pale blue in the moonlight, advancing up a flight of stairs at the McIver’s ladies baths. Then, a rustling in the bushes: somebody was climbing up the hill, from the baths to the pathway on which I was stationed. I moved closer to the sound; the swimmer emerged. He was a man: bald, large, his grey T-shirt wet at the neck.

As the name suggests, the ladies baths is a space reserved exclusively for women and children. I had heard a rumour, as the Australian summer’s last late heatwave bloomed, that every full moon a group of older women headed to the baths at night to swim naked. I began visiting at full moon, needing – it was a form of madness, and a distraction from it – to know if it was true.

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Please, stop putting weird products like crocheted tampons in your vagina | Poppy Noor

Wed, 01/22/2020 - 09:40

Anything can be found on the internet – from fake hymens to whatever is coming out of Gwyneth Paltrow – but that doesn’t mean it’s good for your vagina

You can find anything on the internet, and these days, that includes crocheted tampons. Yes, tampons made of yarn are being sold on Etsy, and news outlets are having to run pieces advising on why vaginal chunky-knits really don’t need to be a look this winter.

Crocheted tampons, just like most things made and sold in an unregulated market such as the internet, do not have to pass the same safety regulations that store-bought tampons have to pass. That means that we don’t know whether they work, what’s in them, or even how they should be cleaned.

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Why a black couple on Love Island has caused a happy hysteria

Wed, 01/22/2020 - 06:53

British media is reluctant to feature one black person in a romantic relationship, let alone two. No wonder Leanne Amaning and Mike Boateng are trending

Black Twitter is all aflutter about Love Island’s Leanne Amaning and Mike Boateng, the show’s first black couple. The lovebirds have had the hashtag #BlackLove trending, their his’n’hers durag and wig cap combo have delighted viewers and many a meme of their imagined traditional Ghanaian wedding has been mocked up. All this and it has not even been a fortnight.

The hysteria over the budding romance perhaps looks excessive. But the #BlackLove hashtag long predates their dating and for good reason: it is something the media is not particularly invested in portraying, especially in the UK. This is why H&M’s campaign featuring the footballer Raheem Sterling, his black fiancee, Paige Milian, and their children was a welcome gift when it landed last Christmas. It has been more than 30 years since the black British sitcom Desmond’s first aired, and while the US continues to roll out family sitcoms such as Black-ish and its spin-offs, Grown-ish and Mixed-ish, we aren’t much closer to our own “Black Brit-ish” equivalent. When attempting to portray diverse couples, the media is hesitant to feature one black person, let alone two; interracial romance being seen as able to depict aspiration in a way that a black couple – without a white participant – isn’t.

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‘I was living a secret life’: the agonising rise of female gamblers

Wed, 01/22/2020 - 05:11

The number of women who report a gambling problem has been rising at double the rate of men. It is used as an escape from stress and pain – but the debt can be catastrophic

Nancy gambled away the £3,000 her father had saved up for his own funeral. It’s the thing she feels most ashamed of having done during her four-year addiction to online gambling. At the time, however, she barely thought twice about what she had done.

“Female gambling addicts are just as bad as men. We will get money wherever we can and gamble it all away immediately,” she says. “The extraordinary thing is that during my addiction, no one suspected a thing. I was gambling online for hours every day. I’d sit down on the settee with my phone in the early evening and the next thing I knew, it was 3am. I hadn’t moved except to press the same button again and again to work the slots. But my bank account would be empty.”

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Why six-packs are an oppressive status symbol for women

Tue, 01/21/2020 - 06:54

Phoebe Waller-Bridge said the washboard stomach she sported at the SAG awards was painted on by a makeup artist. Are these visible contours the height of body fascism?

The only time I have ever seen abdominal muscles that had actually been painted on by a makeup artist was on a man dressed as a pirate at a fancy-dress wedding. Fair enough; you would struggle to survive on the open seas without being buff. But this ab trend is generally more of a woman-thing, and finds its purest expression in Phoebe Waller-Bridge, as so many woman-things do: she appeared at the Screen Actors Guild awards in midriff-centric attire by Armani Prive, looking as if she could have lifted a Robin Reliant simply by engaging her core. Her abs, though, were really all down to a shading effect, for which she thanked her makeup artist.

Visible contours have become a must-have status symbol for women, thanks not so much to the stomach crunching of pioneers, as the obsessive media watch: household names – Miley Cyrus, Jennifer Lopez – are boosted by their washboard tums, and there are definitely people, Bella Hadid, for one, whose myology I feel I know better than their professional output (although since Hadid is a model, you could say there was an overlap). I put it to you, patriarchy, that the six-pack is the ultimate policing of the female form, the point at which the requirement of ever-greater thinness – a basic and timeless tool of oppression – meets the demand for constant self-improvement and maximisation. In a contortion typical of late capitalism, the effort has become more important than the appearance, so you probably wouldn’t even make it as a beach body now if your stomach were merely flat. The message is very much on brand for perhaps even the apotheosis of body-fascism; there is no such thing as difference and variety, there is only trying and not trying, success and failure.

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Deadly silence: what happens when we don't believe women

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 23:15

Not listening to women’s experience of abusive men – and of other areas from health to the economy – harms all of society

It’s become a grim ritual among the women I know: as soon as there is news of another mass shooting, we wait to hear the inevitable story about the shooter’s history of hurting women. (The shooter is always a man.) Sometimes he’s been violent to his mother or grandmother. More often, police reports reveal his history of abusing his girlfriend or wife.

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The female body and the origins of patriarchy | Letter

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 07:31
Many prehistoric societies were egalitarian, writes Hilary Knight, and women were honoured as the creators of new life

“Women have been conditioned to think their bodies are ‘dirty’ or abnormal since the beginning of time,” writes Arwa Mahdawi (theguardian.com, 18 January). Untrue. Human society (at least, most human societies) began to degenerate into patriarchy about 12,000 years ago, with the advent of agriculture and land ownership.

The previous hunter-gatherer societies were egalitarian; some were matrifocal and matriarchal. Women were honoured as the creators of new life, and the most important deities were female. The domineering and minatory male uber-god, memorably characterised by novelist Tom Robbins as “a neurotic prick”, is a johnny-come-lately.
Hilary Knight
Victoria, British Columbia

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Ignorance about menopause is destroying lives – and it’s not only women who suffer | Diane Danzebrink

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 01:01

Like many women, I struggled to get basic information and help for debilitating symptoms. Now we are campaigning for change

A few years ago I hadn’t given menopause a second thought. These days it’s pretty much all I think, talk and write about, but that was never the plan. In the summer of 2012, I had to undergo a total abdominal hysterectomy, including the removal of both of my ovaries, due to suspected ovarian cancer.

Two days after surgery I was back at home, my feet up as instructed, which was perfect timing for the London Olympics. There was no discussion before or after my surgery about all the possible implications of surgical menopause, the state I now found myself in. When leaving the hospital I was simply told to see my GP at some point to discuss hormone replacement, but concerns about it meant that I initially chose not to take it. That was a big mistake. But I had no idea at the time, because nobody had explained it to me.

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World's 22 richest men wealthier than all the women in Africa, study finds

Sun, 01/19/2020 - 23:42

Startling scale of inequality laid bare as Oxfam report highlights chronically undervalued nature of care work

The world’s 22 richest men have more combined wealth than all 325 million women in Africa, according to a study.

Women and girls across the globe contribute an estimated £8.28tn ($10.8tn) to the global economy with a total of 12.5bn hours a day of unpaid care work, a figure more than three times the worth of the global tech industry, claims an Oxfam report published on Monday ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

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Catcalls, cabs and classroom comments: how girls struggle to find a safe place in the UK today

Sat, 01/18/2020 - 21:48

Blackpool comes bottom of all UK local authorities for girls’ human rights and quality of life, according to research by Plan International

Blackpool is the hardest place to be a girl in the UK, according to new research which campaigners say should act as a wake-up call for the government. The north-western town comes bottom among all local authorities for key indicators of girls’ human rights and quality of life, a report by children’s charity Plan International UK found.

Local authorities in the bottom 10 were mainly in the north of England or Midlands, the charity found: Nottingham and Hartlepool are in the bottom three with Blackpool, considered England’s most deprived local authority. While three of the 10 highest-ranked local authorities (Orkney Islands, East Renfrewshire and Shetland) are in Scotland, the rest are in the south of England. “Right across the UK, there are challenges in being a girl,” said Plan CEO Rose Caldwell. “Even in top-performing areas, we would expect it to be much better than it currently is.”

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Gwyneth Paltrow has capitalized on vaginal shame and celebration | Arwa Mahdawi

Sat, 01/18/2020 - 04:10

Why are vaginas suddenly everywhere? Partly because of the rise of ‘wellness’ – but also because they’re now a symbol of resistance

Sign up for the Week in Patriarchy, a newsletter​ on feminism and sexism sent every Saturday.

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'Believe women' is being cheapened to score political points. That will backfire | Jessa Crispin

Fri, 01/17/2020 - 01:20

It’s dirty politics – and using the phrase to land blows on a political opponent will end up hurting women

It’s a familiar scenario. An exchange occurs in private. Only the two figures involved – a man and a woman – know what truly transpired. But once they leave that room and start to tell their version of events, the man is given the benefit of the doubt and the woman faces intense scrutiny and skepticism.

Related: Warren and Sanders appear to move on following debate tensions – live

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Sexual harassment victims to take part in government survey

Thu, 01/16/2020 - 23:29

Minister reveals she was once harassed as she encourages people to share experiences

Ministers are to survey thousands of victims of sexual harassment to strengthen protections for workers.

Victims of sexual harassment are being urged to share their experience in what the Government Equalities Office has described as one of the largest surveys of its kind ever to be carried out.

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Long-Bailey says abortion limit should not be different for disability

Thu, 01/16/2020 - 03:55

Long-Bailey ‘unequivocally supports woman’s right to choose’ but believes disability and non-disability should be treated equally

Rebecca Long-Bailey has said she does not agree with allowing abortion on the grounds of disability after the standard limit of 24 weeks – but stressed that this was a personal view.

The Labour leadership candidate confirmed her position after comments emerged showing she argued last year against being able to abort on the grounds of disability later than if there is no disability.

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This is what midlife looks like for women

Wed, 01/15/2020 - 23:00

Guts, blood, hair, sex and love – it’s time to reclaim menopause as a time for self-discovery

Middle-aged women have long been treated as the punchlines of jokes in popular culture – as the crazy witches at the end of the street, or worse, as invisible members of society who cease to exist once their reproductive years are over. But a host of artists have recently focused their attention on the experiences of women in midlife, from Darcey Steinke’s Flash Count Diary to Susan P Matterns’ The Slow Moon Climbs.

This new wave of attention is joined by photographer Elinor Carucci’s Midlife. In her introduction to the book, Kristen Roupenian writes that Carucci’s photographs invoke the “intense, exhausting self-monitoring that can feel like an inescapable part of owning a female body”.

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Croatia has enchanting words for genitalia. Why doesn't the UK? | Adrian Chiles

Wed, 01/15/2020 - 23:00

I am friends with a Croatian couple who translate erotic fiction. This is eye-opening – not least my realisation that the UK doesn’t have nearly enough female-friendly euphemisms

Some time at the end of the last century, I made a mistake. Friends of mine, a Croatian couple, asked me to find them a book called The Art of Selling, and take it to them in Zagreb when I was next there. This was pre-internet and Amazon and all that caper, so it took some finding. Upon slapping it triumphantly on my friends’ kitchen table, I was told this wasn’t the book they were after; far from it. They had asked me for The Art of Sailing. Imagine their disappointment.

However, in a lifetime of unforced errors, this one was more or less alone in that it actually turned out for the best. My friends read The Art of Selling, liked it, saw a market for it, translated it into Croatian, sold lots of copies, and their publishing business was born. I saw them last week; these days they are engaged in the translation of erotic fiction into Croatian. This, as you can imagine, has its challenges. The word “manhood” is one. “What’s that all about?” my friend Zrinka asked me.

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Readers on the pain of miscarriage: ‘In my head I was already a mum and then suddenly I wasn’t’

Wed, 01/15/2020 - 07:05

According to a new study, a third of women experience PTSD after losing a baby in early pregnancy. Guardian readers describe their experiences

I had three miscarriages in 2018, all under 12 weeks. I became very anxious to the point that it was impacting every area of my life. It affected my sleep and I had very negative thoughts. I spent a lot of time crying and kept having flashbacks to the third, most traumatic miscarriage, particularly when I was trying to sleep or relax. I had such severe bleeding that I was rushed to hospital in an ambulance. My family struggled to understand the impact it had on me. Only one friend, who had also had a miscarriage, seemed to get it. The professionals who dealt with me when I was admitted were clearly ill-equipped to cope with any mental health implications, which was not their fault. It was only when I self-referred for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) months later that I was able to get the support I needed.

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Women don’t need new year resolutions: we’re expected to improve ourselves every day | Yomi Adegoke

Wed, 01/15/2020 - 06:31

Don’t worry if you haven’t kept your promises this month: there’s always the rest of the year to feel the expectation to make yourself better

At the start of every year, my friends and I discuss new year resolutions: comparing and contrasting them, keeping each other on course and consoling each other when we’ve all caved come February. But a number of them were uncharacteristically unbothered about the chance to set goals at the start of the new decade. New year resolutions simply are not as relevant to them as they once were, now they are in perpetual pursuit of improvement.

The rise of “wellness” and the encroaching culture of public goal-setting means our resolutions start anew not annually but every few days. Healing crystals, luxury water bottles and meditation apps are not the preserve of dippy LA hipsters but the paraphernalia of your average millennial woman. Self-improvement is now integral to our every day; what’s a new year resolution when every other month is a Dry January, a Veganuary or a Stoptober?

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Being Jo March: Little Women finally has an ending grown women deserve | Josephine Tovey

Wed, 01/15/2020 - 06:30

For independent women, Jo March is an icon but until Gerwig’s version there has always been a catch

Long before internet quizzes asked women to reduce themselves to female archetypes by finding out “which Sex and the City character are you?” generations of girls grew up reading Little Women and playing, in their own imaginations, “which March sister are you?”

Like the creative, tomboyish heroine of Louisa May Alcott’s semi-autobiographical novel about four very different sisters, I was a Josephine who went by the more boyish name Jo, the second daughter in a big family of girls. The choice seemed preordained.

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